World No 3 Rory McIlroy is confident he can improve on his poor record in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open this week, despite taking on the duties of tournament host for the second year.
McIlroy has missed the cut in his home event for the last three years and has recorded just two top-ten finishes in nine attempts, with his best result a seventh place in his first full year as a professional in 2008.
But, despite being frustrated at failing to turn good performances into a victory so far in 2016, the 27-year-old believes his game is in good enough shape to contend for the title at The K Club, where he watched the final day of the 2006 Ryder Cup as a 17-year-old spectator.
“The Irish Open always was, but even more so now, has become one of the most important weeks of the year for me, obviously for a couple of different reasons,” said the four-time major winner.
“We’re here to try to raise as much money as we possibly can for three local charities in the Dublin area, but also it’s a tournament that I desperately would love to win one day. My performances in this event, obviously over the past three years, but going beyond that, haven’t been what I would want. I want to really change that this week with a good performance and I feel like my game is in good enough shape to do that. I’m coming off a couple of decent weeks in the States where I felt like I played better than the results suggested, so I’m looking forward to the week. The K Club is a golf course where I feel like I can do well on. It sets up well for me.
“It would be huge [to win]. I think anyone that plays professional golf, they dream of winning their home open. You don’t get very many opportunities to do it, so it would be very special. It’s definitely one tournament that is missing from my CV that I would love to add.”
Asked if he could pinpoint why he had not performed well in Ireland, McIlroy added: “No, not really. I think maybe the pressure of playing at home; we don’t get to play at home very often and maybe trying a bit too hard or putting a bit too much pressure on myself.
“There were obviously reasons I wanted to get involved in this tournament and one of those reasons was because I wanted to be here.
“I wanted to contribute something, where coming to the Irish Open was becoming more of a burden instead of being something that I relished and something that I enjoyed.
“So being able to get involved and not just play for myself, but play for other people and help other people out, I enjoy that part of it. I want to come here. I want to help out. I want to try to make this one of the best tournaments in the world and I feel like we’ve made a few good strides towards doing that.”
McIlroy believes that he learned a lot from acting as tournament host last year, when he slumped to an opening round of 80 and missed the cut at Royal County Down, but was on hand to present the trophy to eventual champion Soren Kjeldsen.
“I think there were times where I spread myself a little bit too thin last year with a lot of commitments and we’ve tried to scale that back a little bit this year,” he added.
“Last night with the Q&A [with Sir Alex Ferguson] was one of the biggest things I had to do but, once the tournament starts, I really don’t have many other commitments, so I’m trying to really focus on the tournament when we get going.”